This is a literature review of a report entitled Efficiency and Effectiveness in Big-City Police Departments, which analyzed police data from big cities to identify the factors that can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of police organizations.
Organizational effectiveness involves firms identifying and pursuing the strategic actions that businesses need to take to achieve their operational goals in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. Police agencies have many goals aside from crime management, including managing traffic, intervening in family disputes, and managing and reporting on city maintenance. However, despite the variety of tasks that police agencies complete, the public typically associates them with crime-fighting, and public and political definitions of police effectiveness tend to be based on this image. To measure police effectiveness, we examine the ratio of crimes reported to arrests.
Organizational efficiency essentially involves achieving an optimal working condition with the least amount of effort. The targets that are usually associated with organizational efficiency include fewer staff members, less equipment, or less expense. Essentially, efficient police agencies achieve their objectives with the budgets that are available to them. Efficiency is of concern to these institutions because the resources that are available for local governments are fixed and often limited. City leaders demand that the police increase their efficiency by developing and implementing better strategies.
Data was collected on police departments that served 386 US cities of 50,000 or more residents in 1970. It was then analyzed to evaluate the many claims pertaining to the sources of effectiveness and efficiency in police work and whether they are compatible or mutually incompatible organizational goals. The Uniform Crime Report that is issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigations was determined to be the most suitable data source. The report spans seven crime types: murders, robberies, assaults, rapes, burglaries, larceny, and automobile theft.
The data analysis revealed that the police are most effective when processing murders, rapes, assaults, and robberies, in that order. They were least efficient at processing property crimes, which included burglary, larceny, and auto theft. This effectiveness measure helps us compare police departments on specific crimes and arrests, which is an indicator of police productivity. When analyzing two types of crimes—robbery, and burglary—the report found departments with higher effectiveness had access to higher budgets and benefited from a higher ratio of officers to residents. They also had highly trained officers, access to technological equipment, and more ethnically diversified staff.
To measure the efficiency of the police work, the report looked at the rate of employees per resident, non-white staff, technological equipment, and spending. All of these factors were determined to play a fundamental role in the development of an efficient police department.
Effectiveness and efficiency might be contradictory goals, but both of them serve to achieve better policing. Some big-city police departments were successful in achieving a higher rate of effectiveness at lower costs.
The report found that increased spending can lead to both better effectiveness and efficiency. However, it also concluded that some departments are more effective in solving crimes and making arrests at lower costs than others. The focus on hiring minorities and engaging civilians in police processing were both important factors in successful police departments.
One of the limitations of this report is that it failed to take into consideration the fact that police agencies offer many services to the community; their activities are not limited to crime-fighting. However, the data in this report focused purely on major crimes.
Follow-up research should examine the traits that are common across successful agencies that achieve high rates of effectiveness and efficiency to generate more data pertaining to what organizational factors influence the achievement of this goal.
Skogan, Wesley G. “Efficiency and Effectiveness in Big-City Police Departments.” Public Administration Review, vol. 36, no. 3, 1976, pp. 278–286. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/974585. Accessed 30 June 2021.